Within the course of a year a lot of change is due for drone pilots within the European Union as the European Aerial Safety Agency (EASA) proposed a new common set of Regulations. The new categorizations of drones and the airspace they are flying in are meant to simplify aerial operations of any kind. We have put together a quick rundown on everything you need to know when flying FPV or drones in general. If the proposed Regulation comes into play, member states are given until June 2020 to enforce them.
From then on the new European rules will circumvent the complicated and scattered policies for different countries that are in place at the moment. Nevertheless, there are a few things we want you to keep in mind. Let’s start out by looking at the three most common types when piloting a drone: FPV-Racing, FPV-Freestyle and commercial drones like the Mavic Pro.
To fly FPV according to the EASA regulation, you need a second person who can check the airspace at all times and always has a visual line of site to the drone. If you own a generally standard FPV-Racing drone weighing around 300 to 450 grams, you´re going to be in the OPEN A3 category(far from people) and in the class Privately Built. As most races in the summer are held on predefined greens or sport-stadiums this should not present any problems for smaller racing federations. Previously such federations might have had to fight irritatingly local regulations it appears as if the EASA rules will ease up on them, especially in countries like Italy where racing outside was generally prohibited.
There are going to be standardized scenarios that are evenly applicable for all pilots across Europe wherever approval is needed for locally organized events. In general, joining national Aeromodelling Clubs isn´t a bad idea at all, since this will automatically grant you flying permission within the club or association’s sites.
Two things are worthy of specific note: In the OPEN sub categories you need to pass a test of 40 multiple choice questions if you want to fly aircraft heavier than 250 grams. You can only go above certain heights above the age of 16. Otherwise you will need company from an adult (i.e. over 16 years of age) or limit the size of you drone so that you can fly in OPEN C0 category (see chart 01).
NOT QUITE FREE WITH FREESTYLE
When flying in open fields and parks (just like the FPV Freestylers do) it gets a little more complicated because your allowed action radius is limited by the fact that you MUST keep your quad in visual line of sight and since this is impossible with goggles on, you always need a spotter. Unless you have friends at every corner of your favorite “bando” building, this might get quite tricky. Additionally, going closer to buildings will trigger that you slip out of the OPEN A3 category into the SPECIFIC category, which consequently require further permissions from local airspace authorities. For now, predicting exactly how this shift into the SPECIFIC category whilst flying is going to work is largely guesswork, it is worth bearing in mind for the future.
The EASA guidelines heavily rely on the European Parliament Regulation 2018/1139 regarding civil aerial traffic enforcement where it states that the ‘…right to protection of personal data…’ must be protected. This means that pilots with onboard HD cameras are covered under the same rules and regulations as those who fly commercial movie-capturing drones.
We might see some further final tweaks and dependencies to FPV before the EU rolls out the laws, but at least it does not seem to be getting stricter as many feared.
MORE MELLOW WITH MAVIC
Aside from the very logical rules regarding privacy of data, getting our beloved 4k drones in the air is broadly becoming easier with new EASA rules. Yes, you need to pass a multiple choice test, and yes, you need to register yourself as a pilot and along with your aircraft but apart from that, the EU’s idea is to let you fly safely within guidelines by looking at a few simple parameters. On a normal “holiday” flight you would fall under OPEN A2 category with class C2 as you often have human beings as close as 30 meters to your Air, Pro, or Phantom.
“WHEN IN DOUBT”: IT’S SPECIFIC
Whenever you are not sure what category you are flying in or one of the prerequisites from the OPEN Category can’t be met you are drifting into the SPECIFIC category.
This shift implies that you need to ask local authorities for permission before taking off and send them a risk assessment based on your own evaluation of the situation guided by the SORA methodology or accepted alternatives by National Aviation Authorities.
According to the EASA plan, there are going to be predefined scenarios that pilots can choose from depending on the class of their drone.
BOOST FOR DRONE INDUSTRY?
All in all the EASA reaches out to the pilots and the industry here by spanning an overarching structure above previously fractured and clustered regulations. Easier travel and easier authentication should bring the drone industry a remarkable boost, especially in countries where pilots suffered from drastic repercussions when flying their aircraft in the wrong places.
Additionally, the new regulations will grant hobby-pilots, racers, freestylers and event organizers a much clearer understanding when speaking to the authorities and vice versa.
For us, the Drone Champions League with our heart in Europe, this also means a great step forward in the right direction.
Happy flying everyone.
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